With this op-ed in today’s Detroit News Steve Horwitz and I did not have the space to make all the points we wish to make about the likely consequences of mask mandates. Most notably, we don’t mention the Peltzman effect. But we nevertheless believe that there are some potentially harmful consequences of mask mandates that should be aired.
Here’s a slice from our op-ed:
But as with actual pollution policy, we cannot assume that the political process will produce a mask mandate that resembles what economists might draw on the blackboard. First, we have to ask what the actual gains from the mandate are likely to be, just as we have to be realistic about just how much pollution an actual tax would discourage. With masks, the question is how mandates work when compared to the next best alternative. How many more people would use masks if they are mandated versus simply relying on strong social pressure and private sector no-mask, no-service rules? It might not be many.